Philae is a comet Lander, part of the ESA Rosetta Mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After about ten years of development and a ten-year cruise through the solar system it successfully landed on the nucleus of the comet on November 12th, 2014.
Since the anchoring harpoons, which were expected to fix the lander to ground, did not work, Philae bounced in the low gravity environment, and only came to rest after a 2 hour’s “hop” in an unforeseen area on the comet surface. Fortunately, the scientific instruments, including cameras, mass spectrometers, a magnetometer and a radar instrument could be operated, and fascinating, unprecedented scientific results have been obtained from the surface of an active comet.
Interplanetary space missions, including a long development phase and elaborated qualification tests do have similarities with pharmaceutical research, where time-spans between the concepts for a new drug until readiness for marketing can be similar.
Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae Lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI with additional contributions from Hungary, UK, Finland, Ireland and Austria.